'CNN Is Truly a Terrible Influence on This Country': Democratic Debate Moderators Pilloried for Centrist Talking Points and Anti-Sanders Bias
September 9, 2020 | News | No Comments
Critics of the corporate media as well as supporters and staffers of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign blasted the moderators of the CNN/Des Moines Register Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night for employing centrist talking points and demonstrating a bias against Sanders in how they framed questions.
The debate, which ran over two hours, was moderated by the Register‘s Brianne Pfannenstiel and CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer and Abby Phillip. It featured six of the 12 remaining Democratic candidates: Sanders (I-Vt.), former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
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As Common Dreams reported, the financial burden of deploying American forces was notably absent during first part of the debate—a lengthy discussion on foreign policy and war—but the moderators did ask candidates about the costs of implementing Medicare for All healthcare, as Sanders has proposed. That contrast, and the presentation of the healthcare questions, sparked swift condemnation from progressives.
Overall, a team of Rolling Stone writers called the debate moderators’ questions “mystifyingly inane.” In a piece titled “CNN Completely Botched the Democratic Presidential Debate,” HuffPost‘s Zach Carter called them “awful.” According to him, the debate on the whole was “tedious, interminable, frivolous… a fiasco of irrelevance held three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.”
“Again and again, CNN anchors substituted centrist talking points for questions―and then followed up predictable responses with further centrist talking points, rarely illuminating any substantive disagreements between the candidates or problems with their policy positions,” he wrote.
Carter pointed to examples such as when Phillip noted that Des Moines is an “insurance town” and asked Sanders what will happen to employees of private insurance companies if the country implements Medicare for All. She also asked Sanders, “How would you keep your plans from bankrupting the country?”
Those critiques and examples, along with others, circulated on social media:
The debate led some critics on Twitter to conclude that #CNNisFox or #CNNisTrash:
The debate came just a day after CNN published what critics called a hit piece involving a private conversation between Sanders and Warren in 2018. Citing four unnamed sources—none of whom were in the room for the conversation—CNN reported that Sanders told Warren “he did not believe a woman could win” the presidential race. While Warren issued a statement after the story ran endorsing the findings of the report, Sanders has repeatedly denied it, including during the debate.
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